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One of the factors that have slowed down Italian growth in the current crisis, even relatively to a sluggish Eurozone, is undoubtedly the endemic accumulation of large scale arrears in Public Administration payments to enterprises for their supply of goods and services to central and local government. True, the very expectation of payment delays tends to be built into enterprise costs and therefore inflate the volume of public expenditure, but even so the build-up of arrears remains a sick anomaly in any market economy, which especially in a tight credit market such as at present can drive even healthy, successful enterprises to lay-offs and bankruptcy. The very scale of such public arrears is uncertain, which makes it worse. A year ago the Bank of Italy estimated the commercial debt of the Public Administration to be of the order of €90 bn at the end of 2012. Since then €24 bn have been paid off, but there have been new gross additions to the total. A conservative estimate of current arrears is above €80 bn (La Repubblica, Economia e Finanza, 10 March 2014, p.2) while estimates by the Confederation of Italian Industry put them at as much as €120 bn. Many of the arrears involve off-budget, non-certified expenditures.

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